Reading Time: < 1 minute

Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


In a statement, Madison Police Department Public Information Officer Stephanie Fryer said the department has stopped identifying the race of suspects in incident reports if “it is not believed (race) will assist in the apprehension or identification of a suspect.”

In a phone call, Fryer told Wisconsin Watch that it is not an official policy, and department staff could not pinpoint when this practice began. Fryer noted that MPD’s “Notable Calls” blog has abided by this practice for years. Fryer explained that suspect descriptions given to police are often too vague to assist with apprehension or identification.

Other police departments have taken similar steps in recent years to stop identifying the race of suspects in crime alerts, including the police department of the University of Minnesota. Minnesota’s university president said such descriptions may “unintentionally reinforce racist stereotypes.”

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


DocumentCloud: Madison Police Department Statement

Smart Politics: University of Minnesota to Stop Using Race in Crime Alert Suspect Descriptions

Inside Higher Ed: U of Nebraska at Lincoln under fire for including race in campus crime alert

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Erin Gretzinger joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism and French major at UW-Madison and will graduate in spring 2023. Erin previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal as a reporting intern and served as the 2021-22 editor-in-chief at The Badger Herald. She is a recipient of the Jon Wolman Scholarship, the Sigrid Schultz Scholarship and the Joseph Sicherman Award Fund for her academic and reporting work.